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OLD POST ROAD IS GATEWAY TO CENTURIES OF HISTORY

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"As early as 1639 Plymouth was linked to Boston by a path, a stretch of which later became part of the `Boston Post Road.' By 1673, the Boston Post Road extended to New York City."

- Charles Wixom "PictorialHistory of Roadbuilding"

Greenwich, Conn., May 27, 1994: I begin walking from the hotel - with Stamford on one side somewhere, and Greenwich on the other. Long street with busy traffic. High trees all around. The sound of Interstate 95 in the distance gives off a hissing sound as its traffic rushes to and from Manhattan 20-30 miles away.

For over a hundred years the rich have clustered in these wooded retreats, tucked against the ocean in broad estates. Narrow streets wind through the ancient groves, with the haves and the have-nots settling to their various levels. Streams in one area rush through verdant glades, and in another are channeled into culverts and smutty, slow-moving channels.

Where I sit now, on the corner of a busy intersection, there is a little side street called "Old King's Highway." Shooting off at an angle from Putnam Avenue near a restaurant and a fireplace shop, it is bordered on one side by an old stone wall covered with vegetation and crumbling in places.

Could this really be what the sign says, part of an old road that stems clear back to Colonial times, a connecting route between towns, now crowded out by progress and the passage of time? Narrow and asphalted, it melts into the landscape like a typical residential side street with clapboard homes clinging to its edges.

Imagine that someone stopped here one time, where I am sitting, to rest a horse on the way to New York - or on the way to Greenwich Harbor, to catch a ship to the mother country; and maybe a hundred years later, a young recruit for the Union Army passed this way, too, homesick and unaware, as yet, of a place called Gettysburg.

I could go on imagining, for hours, the stories this road could tell if it were as old as it suggests.

A band of motorcycles passes on Putnam, loud and abrasive. An elderly woman with dyed, red hair passes by with a younger woman - her daughter, maybe? Out for a walk before dark, do they ever wonder about whose feet also have trodden this road before them? Oblivious to the ancient wall, they are absorbed in talk about current things.

Again, I wonder how the pages of time might dovetail at this spot. English Redcoats stop to adjust their packs. A Puritan family in a crude wagon bearing all their worldly goods passes in their quest for a new home somewhere westward in the dense inland forests.

It is easy to get lost in such musings.

Fifteen minutes later, the two women return through the busy Putnam Avenue. They curl back around the corner of Old King's Highway, and I wonder if I should ask - why not?

"Excuse me. I'm unfamiliar with the area. Could you tell me why this is called Old King's Highway?"

The older woman seems unsure, but the younger one launches into a confirmation of my broadest vi-sions.

"It's exactly what it says. This used to be part of the Old Post Road. There are bits and pieces of it all the way up the coast to Boston."

So I was right all along. Dollars to a doughnut George Washington came this way one time - or several - and I can almost hear Benjamin Franklin talking as he passes in the gathering darkness.

On the edge of what light is left, I head back toward the hotel, not up the main highway, but along the narrow alley - Old King's Highway. A half block and I come to a small lot on the right, tucked between condos with a garland of trees and dark, lichen-covered walls, waist high, like a small park with stone entrance and steps.

Underfoot, I notice stone slabs half hidden by tall grass. Headstones.

In the dim light I read a few of the names:

"Revolutionary Soldier. John ADAMS 1746-1834"

Thick crusts of moss cover sunken sections where coffins have deteriorated below the surface.

Though most of the epitaphs are melted by time, I find another that is fairly readable:

Son of

William E. & Sarah Gray

who departed this life

Aug. 11th. 1852

Aged 1 year 2 months

and 17 days

--- I Now the pangs of death all vanish

Even that fair Brow its gloom was banished

No more can pain rend that sweet bosom

For Willie blooms a heavenly blossom.

So funeral corteges have plied this route, have settled their burden with clusters of flowers and painful bereavement for children long since forgotten.

It amazes me to think that along this road so much has transpired over the centuries, that each age has added its own agenda to the route, until what was once the most important road between New York and Boston has faded into bits of alley and sections of side street, tattered remnants of a long, distinguished past.

NOTE: From a chronology of the History of Greenwich:

1774 Paul Revere rides through Greenwich on his way to New York.

1776 Town Meeting supports the Declaration of Independence unanimously.

1777-1782 Greenwich is subject to many raids and actions by both British and American troops.

1792 Toll gate is established in Greenwich on Post Road.